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DGLS030 Art and Visual Culture Vladimir Radinovic MA Digital Culture

Blurred Visions: Life out of focus

With the technology rapidly developing and opening new doors for visual communication, naturally our perception of the visual world around as is constantly changing and upgrading. Ever since Flickr and other photoblogging websites, the vast majority of people who are involved in this social networks, that are more photography than text based, have been forming and reshaping the visual sensitivity of human kind. Phenomenon that has attracted my attention the most is the increasingly big collections of blurred photography. This intentional glitch or a product of long exposition has been reappearing over the last years so much that have become a exceptional subgenre of modern photography. There are groups on Flickr who are devoted to creating a collection of these photographs and are in a way forming sort of unique subculture. Just now if one looks up for images that are tagged as blur on Flickr, one will get around half a million results1. Blurred at birth We most not forgot that photography was born as blurred. First photographs that were made by Niepce and Daguerre by camera obscura were pale gray images (Benjamin, 1931). This photographic technique is still part of the education in contemporary Eastern European art schools2. Students of photography are encouraged to practice this technique at the beginning of their studies before they are allowed to use modern digital cameras. Unlike Daguerre, students are using regular photographic film instead of silver plates, but the process itself remains the same. Camera obscura works with long exposition and since the nature in its character is not static most of the results are blurred. This form of educational rerun of photographic history brings us to the fact that most of the professional photographers started their education by producing blurred

photography. I state this fact in defense of quality and position of blurred photography, given that it has been mostly accounted to amateurism and mistake. Shift from mistake to art With the rise of the digital era and the beginning of, as William J. Mitchell calls it, post-photographic era; cheep digital cameras are obtainable on every corner and in almost every super market. Mobile telephones of newer generations are unthinkable without built in cameras. We are expected to document every moment of our life, no matter how unimportant it is. Unquestionably mobile phone cameras and digital home use cameras do not contain half of the features of professional cameras. Which leads to the fact that if photographs are not taken in perfect weather and light conditions, they repeatedly tend to turn out blurry or out of focus. Certainly with the option to immediately witness the result on screen, one can delete the unwanted blurred image, on the other hand with the capacity of several gigabytes of storage, that act is became obsolete. I would not go into the history of art and photography here and try to find the historical references that led to change of visual perspective, and the foundation of our appreciation of blurred images. Still, I found that option to see the photograph instantly upon pressing the shooter button has led to shift from amateur and documentary photography to artistic one. Blurred photographs were no more considered as mistakes, they were considered as art. Application and recognition Implementation of this new art form in the contemporary visual culture, came sooner that expected. Although we live in the information society in which all new cultural phenomena are exposed almost over night, nobody expected that blurred photography would have created such major impact on our visual lives. First steps as always have been made by advertisement agencies who glorified the use of blurred photography upon discovering it in indie design. Young uprising designers and artists have reached first for blurred photography in their designs of posters and flyers for small bands and local events. Nobody so far has

argued why they have chosen this type of photography as a background for their designs. Was it because of the lack of professional photographic equipment or maybe because it was some sort of statement against design canon. Did it had to do anything with the rave and drug culture, or was it just reinterpretation of the famous liquid backgrounds on the posters from the 60s. Flickr groups Currently on Flickr there are many groups3 for blurred photos, who praise and support this form of photographic language. Size of their pools varies as well as the number of participants and their geographical position. More active members who are usually also administrators of the group tend to scout photographers on Flickr and request that they post their blurred images into their groups. Most of these groups are just fan groups that are gathered around the idea of blurred photos, but some of them refer to established photographers and are in that way more educational in relation to art and blur. They even name their groups by using the French word for blur flou. This is done in order to establish higher level of artistic values for this group oppose to other groups. Conclusion In all, general appreciation of blurred images is rising. Maybe because the speed of the society in which we are living at the moment, or maybe because of the imaginary affect that inspires observers to create their own visual reading. We consume a vast amount of visual information on the daily basis, now more then ever in history. Upon reencountering some of the less important we tend to refer to our memory of it as it was through mist. With a collection of blurry memories in todays society I wonder how dose ones life look like few seconds before death, when our entire life flashes in front of our eyes.

References: Digital Images, Photo-Sharing, and Our Shifting Notions of Everyday Aesthetics. Susan
Murray. Journal of Visual Culture 2008; 7; 147 The Work of Art in the Age of its Technological Reproducibility, and Other Writings on Media. Walter Benjamin. Belknap Harvard. London 2008


Upon writing this paper I conducted a search on Flickr for images tagged as blur. Result showed 468,149 images found. January 2009.
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I am referring to Art Academies from Eastern Europe, since my background education was in one of them.

On Flickr there are 4,165 groups about blur, but some of these groups have names that do not consist of the word blur, so the correct number can not be stated. January 2009.